The Watchdog – Transparency from the Grassroots to 10 Downing Street

In a world awash with identity-politics, fake news, politicised big media and illusory social media, there has never been a time when independent, honest, robust, properly-regulated and authoritative local newspapers have been more important. Britain’s local and regional press is the best in the world, but a large part of it finds itself under attack.  It deserves to be properly defended.

I confess that I have always been a fan of what I would call ‘neighbourhood journalism’. A small-town boy from the Norwegian municipality of Halden, my childhood memories include paging through the local newspaper once my parents had finished reading.  Today, I enjoy the almost magical way in which it combines good old-fashioned accountability with digital era technology.

I love how local journalism engages and remains conscious of the magnitude of the world, while synthesising local issues. I also understand how vital an instrument neighbourhood journalism is; how it provides knowledge and information to everyone, even individuals living in tiny isolated or rural communities. And I know with absolute certainty how essential local and regional news is to the preservation of truth in a world of politically-motivated “fake news”. But can local journalism survive in a world full of apathy, bias and identity-driven social-media? I am certain beyond any reasonable doubt it can and I am committed to making certain it does!

Unfortunately, no one of note seems to be defending local and regional journalism—that is no one but me. This is now my personal crusade. I want to fight for the rights of people to have access to local, regional and national news that matters to them.  I want to continue to offer reputable reportage, bleached clean of the mistruths of grand scale media policymakers whose goals are usually inconsistent with small community residents dependent on local journalism for reliable news.

How do I fight? I am an activist shareholder and I fight by changing the narrative. I fight by demonstrating that digital disruption can work. I fight by holding management to account.  Currently I am fighting to keep alive Johnston Press, a multi-media company with a proud history going back 250 years which currently has a diverse holding of near 200 flagship and local and regional titles which include The i, The Scotsman, The Yorkshire Post, The News and The Burnley Express, just to mention a few.

With its many titles, Johnston Press strives to serve local communities throughout Britain and influences the lives of almost 40 million each month through both digital and hard copy formats.

It would be a tragedy if Johnston Press, weakened through long-term mismanagement by a self-serving board, should fall prey to opportunistic players from big media and the financial world. They have no interest in seeing Johnston Press remaining intact and continuing to provide much needed local and regional news, and nor do they have any interest in maintaining the jobs, prospects and pensions of the so many talented people who work tirelessly in bringing honest and independent news to the many communities of Britain. Johnston Press, its journalists and staff and the media consumers of Britain deserve better.

Custos, as the largest shareholder of Johnston Press, will continue to fight tirelessly to ensure that Johnston Press will remain intact and continue to provide trustworthy news which, to borrow a phrase from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, is “of the people and for the people”.


Christen Ager-Hanssen
Custos Group